The best books about Aboriginal Australians 📚

Browse the best books on Aboriginal Australians as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Boy from the Mish

The Boy from the Mish

By Gary Lonesborough

Why this book?

This is a heartwarming contemporary story about a gay Aboriginal teen exploring his sexuality and falling in love for the first time, set against the vivid backdrop of a fictional, rural Indigenous community. It’s evocative and heady and compelling. It’s one of those stories that makes you want to reach into the book and hug all the characters and tell them everything is going to be okay. Such an important story from a brilliant new voice in Australian YA.

From the list:

The best books about growing up gay in Australia

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Book cover of Australian Aboriginal art

Australian Aboriginal art

By Ronald Berndt

Why this book?

I have a deep admiration for the art of indigenous Australians with their connection to nature and mother earth. I grew up in outback Australia near a pre-historic sacred site with an awe-inspiring cave drawing of a giant serpent. This book, written by several scholars, is a comprehensive resource on Aboriginal art. The illustrations cover traditional bark paintings and cave drawings, some dating back more than 30,000 years. The authors’ analysis of symbols is informative. I consider Aboriginal artists to be the first anatomists. Long before Leonardo, they were drawing the inner structures and organs of humans and animals. 

From the list:

The best books on the drawing techniques of great masters and great mistresses

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Book cover of Aboriginal Convicts: Australian, Khoisan and Maori Exiles

Aboriginal Convicts: Australian, Khoisan and Maori Exiles

By Kristyn Harman

Why this book?

If the British empire’s first historians had a knack for anything it was omitting to mention what some of what their predecessors did for the sake of empire. Aboriginal Convicts is one of those books that really challenges us to rethink the stories we have received about British colonization. By tracing the lives of Indigenous people in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand who were sentenced to transportation as convicts this groundbreaking book turns the table on the way we see Britain’s empire in the nineteenth century.

From the list:

The best books that will change how you see history

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Book cover of Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art

Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art

By Fred R. Myers

Why this book?

I love this book because it combines an account of the historical development of the market for acrylic paintings by Pintupi Aboriginal Australian artists with a critical analysis of the ways that contemporary art markets create the idea of the ‘Aboriginal artist’ in the first place. Because Myers had already conducted research on Pintupi culture, rituals, and personhood before he came to write this book, he is able to fully explore the aesthetic and cosmological processes that underpin the actual practices of painting that his research participants use in their work.

By also investigating how dealers, museum curators, and collectors…

From the list:

The best books about people who make things for a living

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Book cover of Walking is a Way of Knowing: In a Kadar Forest

Walking is a Way of Knowing: In a Kadar Forest

By Madhuri Ramesh, Manish Chandi, Matthew Frame

Why this book?

This is a small book. But in its own way, it is rich and detailed when it comes to how profoundly it draws out the relationship between the forest and the Kadars, an indigenous community residing in South India. The authors visiting the forest are researchers from the city, but here in the forest their teachers are the Kadars whose very name means “people of the forest.” With a touch of humour the book, wonderfully illustrated, is an ode to the traditional ecological knowledge, powers of observation, and story-telling skills of the Kadars. The simple activity of walking on a…
From the list:

The best writings on the environment by women writers from India

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Book cover of The Secret River

The Secret River

By Kate Grenville

Why this book?

This book was my introduction to Australian literature. I loved its eloquent evocation of a world totally new and mysterious to its characters. Although I was vaguely familiar with Australia’s penal colony past and with the destruction wrought on Aboriginal lives and culture, this book brought it home. I deeply appreciated the way it took me into the minds of men and women, most of them well-meaning but ignorant, and showed me how they missed the point of where they were and how to thrive there. The tragedy of that ignorance resonates with me, since I see it all around…

From the list:

The best books by women that sweep you to another time and place whether you’re male or female

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